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April 2011

  • April 9, 2011
  • Written by

I’m sure everyone is tired of our rotten weather and are anxious for spring, particularly with the warmer temperatures in April. I’m sure some people are very concerned that there will be an abundance of water, delaying the opening of golf courses and parks. The ground saturated by last summer’s rains won’t help either.

Over the winter we saw a number of golf courses trying desperately to find a superintendent for the coming year. This continues to be a difficult task, particularly since our economic picture is so strong in our province. The oil patch, with its high wages and strong benefit packages, continues to attract superintendents especially from nine-hole courses.

Labour is the biggest line item in virtually any budget,
consuming at least 50% of a golf course budget. Most golfers who want to play on a well conditioned golf course fail to realize the implication of labour costs for near-perfect playing conditions. People are reluctant to raise green fees to offset labour costs for fear golfers will go somewhere else to play.

Did you know there are approximately 300,000 American Elms planted in villages,
towns and cities throughout Saskatchewan? Of those, roughly 50,000 are in Saskatoon and 100,000 in Regina. The oldest planted American Elms in our province are relatively young when compared with the normal mature age for the species; under ideal conditions these trees can live more than 400 years. That’s a bunch older than I am.

Continually we hear about food products, meat, or vegetables that may be contaminated with bacteria responsible for botulism in humans. This only proves there are much larger issues In food safety than the use of pesticides by licensed applicators.

As most of you know, Mrs. Campbell had major surgery in February. I’m happy to let everyone know she just had a check-up and everything is fine. She is good to resume all activity. However her doctor wrote me a note saying she shouldn't vacuum for the rest of her life. If she thinks I’m doing it, she is nuts—I’ll hire a housekeeper to do it.

This winter I heard golfers in Saskatoon talking about “framing”, mainly the lack of it. They talked about mounds, trees or traps that should frame every green and landing area. These people, all I suppose avid golfers should really open their eyes and enjoy the entire landscape, not just a snapshot of one small part of it.

In the next couple of weeks you will receive an invoice for 2011 STA membership fees. Upon receiving it please take the invoice to the people responsible for paying the bills and submit it back to me as soon as possible. We continue to carry out our membership drive to take us over the top of 200 members.

Recently I attended “Gardenscape” here in Saskatoon. This is the 2nd largest garden show in Canada with over 300 exhibitors. I enjoyed the educational sessions, the trade show, and a lot of old gardening friends. The highlight of the show was receiving an invitation to visit the operations at the Shellview Sod Farms. I promised I would visit them this summer.

More and more often I hear complaints about inconsistent playing conditions.
More often than not the complaint is unjustified or unrealistic. The bottom line seems to be that the game and golfers are evolving and with the evolution comes increasing demands that the golf course play consistently from hole to hole and day to day.

We are all worried about the possibility of dealing with flooded properties this spring. However we are certainly not in the trouble those poor people in Japan are in or the people in Libya that are dodging bullets for the past month. We are lucky to be living in Saskatchewan.

There are more and more people that have problems with cologne and perfume.
I've heard of this but it really hit home when I saw numerous signs at the Saskatoon Fieldhouse asking people not to wear any scented products because people may be allergic to them. I don’t hear the tree huggers talking about this, because most or maybe all use cosmetic products.

A forward from a book on Turf Management, authored by Dr. Jim Beard.
The quote originated from a speech given by a Past President of the United States Golf Association. “Golf is unique in many respects. Certainly no other sport requires so many skills for the development, preparation and maintenance of the surface on which it is played. Consider, for example, what the golf course requires as compared to a football field, a tennis court, a ball diamond, or a bowling green. There is no other sport in which effective maintenance matters more than it does in golf.”

It will soon be time for the geese to come back to cause havoc on our golf courses by leaving bubble gum all over the place. Many golf courses are controlling goose problems by using dogs. The dog of choice seems to be the border collie. Another breed, however, is the “Jindo” originally from Mongolia. They are said to have a natural instinct to chase geese, even in water.

This winter, like always, I read a ton of golf books and magazines, particularly those about Golf Course Maintenance. I always jot down little tidbits that I can use in our Newsletter. They usually appear in Turf Tips. I read that golf is a game board. The game was formed around three points: the strategic, heroic, and pineal aspects. Trouble is, 90% of those people golfing don’t know they exist.

The start of the golf season is right around the corner and I’m sure everyone is excited about starting a new year. It brings to mind a comment I heard from an old and respected green superintendent named John Steele. “Tee areas are an opportunity for a golf course to make 18 first impressions.” With a little time and effort and a minimal amount of money, superintendents can make these initial impressions a round full of good ones and also make the superintendent look good.

Golf clubs should remember this during the summer
: they should ask themselves “What is good turfgrass maintenance work?” You will find that better playing conditions increase the desire to play, which, in turn, allows for higher green fee revenue. Courses that spend more time and money on course maintenance are those that can command higher green fees.

Something I learned at this year’s Gardenscape is that there is a hidden risk when chemically killing tree stumps. Roots of adjacent trees frequently form natural grafts, permitting herbicides applied to one to move through an unseen root graft into its neighbor. The root grafts have been known to cause the sudden and “inexplicable” death of a neighbors prized tree about one week after the stump next door was poisoned—oops!

Topdressing is the best practice you can have for an immediate and positive impact on the health of greens and tees. Whether one topdresses with straight sand or with a mixture of sand, soil and peat, the grass responds almost at once. As the topdressing particles filter down between the grass blades, the plants get a welcome reprieve from the pounding feet of golfers and the shearing action of mowers.

Did you know this—Saskatchewan has more golf holes per capita than any other Canadian province. Saskatchewan is the #1 producer of potash; is Canada’s second –largest producer of crude oil and third largest natural gas producer. Saskatchewan has produced more than 450 N.H.L. players, more than any other province in Canada.

A lot of people are more than a little surprised to find
that the majority of the pesticide products used by golf course superintendents are identical or closely related to those used by home owners. As well, some close relatives are used in the medical industry to treat a variety of illnesses: Warfarin is one—it is used to kill rats—I take it daily to stay alive.

This leads me to: there is no scientific evidence that golfers face any chronic health risks
from pesticides used to maintain courses. Once a liquid product is applied and the turfgrass is dry or the product is watered in, there is very little chance of exposure to golfers or other who enter the area. It is worth noting that a small percentage of people may be allergic to a particular product, just as some people are allergic to household cleaners, soaps or perfumes. Superintendents are encouraged to let people know what products might be in use. They can do this by signage at the 1st and 10th tees and at the Pro Shop.

Now may be a good time to think about what precautions can be taken
to minimize the risk of West Nile Virus for yourself and your staff. With a wet 2010 and an abundance of snow this past winter it will be a real chore to eliminate areas of standing water. You should apply insect repellent to your skin and clothes and wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever necessary.

Also be aware of Dutch Elm Disease which is a fatal fungal disease
that can kill an American Elm in as little as three weeks. It is spread by the elm bark beetle that feeds and breeds in the elm trees. D.E.D. clogs the water-conducting vessels of an elm, therefore one of the first signs of the disease will be a branch in the upper canopy of an elm with leaves that will wilt , turn brown and shrivel in early summer. They often remain on the tree for the full season. If the disease strikes later in the summer, leaves will usually wilt, turn yellow and fall off prematurely. If you see signs of D.E.D. be sure to call 1-800-SASKELM immediately.

I remember this one. While in Toronto a few years ago to receive the John B. Steele award, I had lunch with a group of Superintendents who participated in the Fall Field Day at the Riverside Country Club in Saskatoon. I believe it was 2004. I asked these people how they thought Riverside was conditioned? Excellent! I asked about green speed—Excellent and consistent! I asked them about bunkers? - Excellent and consistent! If you asked four members these same questions you would get a variety of different answers, none of which you’d understand.

A lot of golfers think a green superintendent’s job is turning on a water sprinkler and watching the grass grow
and then cutting it. Advances in science and technology, as well as legislative changes, means that greenkeepers are constantly updating their education. These guys attend seminars, study on-line, travel to conferences, and network amongst colleagues just like most other professionals. With this, golfers should spend more time on the practise range and less time second-guessing the course conditions.

That’s enough guys, I’m out of here. Don’t forget to submit your membership fees when you receive your invoice. Have a great spring!

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About the STA

  • Saskatchewan's Turfgrass Association, founded in 1979, is a non-profit organization. The S.T.A. was organized by a group of Turfgrass Professionals which has grown to include people from Parks, Golf Courses, Sod Growers, Cities and Commercial Companies.